Student Seminar: Great Leaders Steal: Why we study and imitate greatness

February 08-10, 2024
Dallas, Texas

What can we learn from an ancient literary form about politics today?

Contemporary politicians and commentators constantly insist that we are living in “unprecedented” times, often pointing to this claim as an excuse for their own poor decisions and unwise leadership. This idea, however, is a delusion resulting from a lack of historical sensibility among our leaders. Human affairs have always obliged leaders to navigate new waters and make decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate data. Yet leaders of the past have succeeded in steering the ship of state safely through these dangers, partly thanks to their reliance on a once-popular literary genre of “Mirrors of Princes.”  

Great leaders know that in times of crisis, it is wise to study—and steal—the practices of leaders past. In the literary genre of “Mirrors of Princes,” philosophers and statesmen explored the virtues of history’s greatest kings and generals as models for their own leaders. In this seminar, come study the best examples of the “Mirrors,” from Xenophon’s study of Cyrus the Great, to the contrasting visions in Machiavelli’s The Prince and St. Thomas More’s Utopia, to Charles de Gaulle’s reflections on leadership during the horrors of the 20th century. Leadership in dark times can feel like a lonely calling, but cultivating a true historical sense reminds us that in facing uncertainty with courage and conviction, we are not alone; rather, we are flanked by the greatest men and women of the past, and they are eager to share their wisdom.  

 All student attendees will receive copies of Statesmanship, edited by John Burtka IV, a reading list, and will receive travel stipends. All who fully participate in the weekend seminar will also receive a $100 honorarium. 

Meet Your Professors

John Burtka IV

John A. Burtka IV is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He graduated from Hillsdale College with degrees in French and Christian Studies and earned a graduate degree in theology from La Faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en-Provence, France. Johnny began his career at ISI, where he served as a development officer. He returned to ISI after four years at The American Conservative magazine, where he served as Executive Director and Acting Editor. Johnny has appeared on Fox News and Fox Business and written for the Washington Post, the Richmond Times-DispatchFirst Things, the American Mind, and the Intercollegiate Review, among other publications. He has been a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute and has participated in academic fellowships at Washington College and the Trinity Forum. 

Dr. Matt Peterson

Dr. Peterson graduated from the Great Books Program at Thomas Aquinas College, and received his M.A. in politics and Ph.D. in political science from Claremont Graduate University. As a professor, he has taught courses on political philosophy, American government, rhetoric, and media at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, Loyola Marymount University, and Claremont McKenna College, among others.

From 2008-2011, Dr. Peterson assisted in the design, implementation and evaluation of U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History initiatives. Dr. Peterson also has an extensive background in media and political research, including a three-year stint beginning in 2003 as a researcher for the Claremont Institute.

From 2018-2021 he served as the Vice President of Education at the Claremont Institute, directing all fellowship programs, and founded The American Mind.

He is currently Co-Founder and General Partner at New Founding, a venture firm dedicated to creating a commercial and cultural union that connects, curates, and advocates for the American people. He has also launched the American Firebrand Super PAC.

Registrations are now closed. If you have any questions, please reach out to Jane Shcarl.